Free From the Laws of the Land, Bound by Their Circumstances
- Length : 86 min
- Genre : Drama, Yakuza, Yaoi
- Airing Date : December 11, 2020
- Producers : John Ledford, Griffin Vance
- Animator : GRIZZLY
Twittering Birds Never Fly ~ The clouds gather ~ is the first in a series of animated films based on Kou Yoneda’s manga “Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai” (Twittering Birds Never Fly). The movie follows the life of the successful Yashiro, Yakuza enforcer and head of the front company Shinseikai Enterprise, and Doumeki, recently released from jail and eager to make money as a subordinate. Despite Yashiro being a sexual deviant and Doumeki being impotent, the two of them feel drawn to each other in some subtle but constant manner.
While belonging to the same large ‘family’, there is much hostility between the different yakuza groups and Yashiro has managed to piss off near everyone while still appearing relatively harmless. His reputation as a pervert masochist has earned him scorn even from some of the guys who can’t refuse his advances. Doumeki isn’t phased by Yashiro’s promiscuous nature nor his sexual advances, only being hindered by Doumeki’s impotence. Yashiro finds that despite Doumeki’s lack of reaction, it doesn’t make Yashiro want to touch him any less. Thus, the two carry on their boss and bodyguard relationship with sexual moments where finishing isn’t even the goal.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Yashiro: He is one of the most exciting characters to see on screen because of his witty banter, ability to throw others off, and, of course, his proclivity for engaging in demeaning sex. By fully embracing his masochism, no one can really do anything to anger him, which becomes infuriating for the would-be offender. Yashiro carries a sense of grace, composure, and danger that will make people think twice before making enemies of him. While he has had relations with many other yakuza, he doesn’t get involved with his subordinates.
Doumeki: At only 25 years old, he has already been through a lot. With a complicated family and past jail sentence, he doesn’t have many options when it comes to work. Thankfully for him, he accidentally ended up at Shinseikai Enterprise thinking it was a legit company and seeing Yashiro who he was instantly smitten with. Being bad at communicating and collections, his boss was happy to have Doumeki act as Yashiro’s bodyguard instead.
Kageyama: Doctor and old friend of Yashiro, the gruff yet understanding man runs a normal clinic in the eyes of the public but tends to Yashiro and his men under the table. As a very serious person, it’s somewhat unfortunate that both his best friend and his boyfriend are huge jokesters and enjoy ruffling his feathers but Kageyama’s tendency to getting flustered by them reveals his soft feelings for them.
Kuga: Known as the Mad Dog who wouldn’t join the yakuza, Kuga has a fiery temper and insists on living his life free from the control of others. Despite their violent introduction, Kuga and Kageyama fell for each other quickly. Kuga may be feisty but he is also kind and friendly to those he takes an interest in.
Nanahara: Loyal subordinate of Yashiro, Nanahara is put off by his boss’ sexual proclivity but respects his work ethic and the power he’s built up for himself.
Misumi: The one who brought Yashiro into the world of the Yakuza as well as his former lover and mentor, now more like just an old friend. Misumi is higher in rank but prefers Yashiro’s company over most people’s.
Yashiro is a mid-level yakuza boss who is good at what he does. He doesn’t make waves outside of being so promiscuous and masochistic that men in other groups find themselves disgusted yet entranced by him. Hiding his business of extortion under the guise of a respectable company, Yashiro will also occasionally help with ‘collections’ because his callous demeanor in the face of someone getting beat up really enforces the idea that it’s ‘pay or die’. While being a terror enough in his own right, Yashiro remains on good terms with his former mentor Misumi which helps keep people off his back.
One day, whilst tied up and getting screwed and hurled insults at, a young man comes into Yashiro’s office and asks him if he’s alright. The man doing Yashiro seems horrified while Yashiro simply adjusts himself, puts his clothes on, and interviews this young man who was recommended to be his bodyguard. The man’s name is Doumeki and he seems entirely unmoved to have witnessed the previous scene. And in the line of work for a yakuza, a bodyguard who can keep his composure is perfect.
Due to Doumeki being Yashiro’s type, he has Doumeki take off his pants to try sucking him off only to find out Doumeki is impotent. Yashiro seems annoyed at first, but quickly brushes it off and finds himself wanting to work on Doumeki in his limp state as it’s different than what he’s used to. Doumeki admits early on he finds Yashiro to be beautiful and knew immediately he wanted to work for him. Content enough they’re both getting something out of it, Yashiro takes Doumeki on despite the latter’s lack of intelligence and people skills.
Whispers of a power struggle stir the ranks as the head boss becomes ill. Misumi wants Yashiro on his side while others try to pressure Yashiro to stay out of the way. Yet others, like Ryuzaki, go out of their way to instigate problems. Ryuzaki never got over that he could be so demeaning to Yashiro in the bedroom but couldn’t lose to him in real life, nor that Yashiro’s composure was always so much greater than his own.
Disinterested in what others want from him, Yashiro focuses on Doumeki and just how much he can get away with. Ordering him around, making him wash Yashiro’s back, having him dress up as a policeman, even pretending to threaten his little sister all to gauge Doumeki’s reactions. Doumeki is never sexually motivated but his tender feelings for Yashiro cause him to go along with Yashiro’s sexual advances without complaint.
With tensions rising between groups, people start overstepping into others’ territory which amounts to Ryuzaki’s men messing with a club on Yashiro’s turf and messing up his man Nanahara. Yashiro goes to collect Nanahara at Kageyama’s clinic only to beat on him more himself for losing. Doumeki notices the light banter between Kageyama and Yashiro and grows jealous, pestering Yashiro with questions about his feelings for Kageyama once they return home. This ends Yashiro’s interest in Doumeki for the night and instead stews by himself over those unrequited feelings for his best friend.
Ryuzaki makes the mistake of showing up at Yashiro’s office to get revenge for his men only for Yashiro to totally shame him and reveal he knows about Ryuzaki’s secret operations. Yashiro then seduces the enraged, embarrassed man who can’t beat Yashiro at anything. Taking his frustrations out on Yashiro’s body only pleases Yashiro which just solidifies Ryuzaki’s own incompetence.
Misumi interrupts and only adds to Ryuzaki’s shame as he urges the two on and he quickly leaves. Misumi only wished to offer encouragement to Yashiro in not letting things go, an ominous and vague sentiment. With things changing in his personal life and professional life, it likely refers to several things. Yashiro characteristically offers himself to Misumi who now says he’s not interested as Yashiro doesn’t sleep with people that he really cares about which actually seems to catch Yashiro off guard.
Yashiro tries calling his loyal dog, perhaps to confirm something, but finds Kuga on the other end asking to borrow Doumeki. Yashiro isn’t phased until he hears Doumeki so flustered he wasn’t speaking in polite speech for once. Confusing this for closeness with Kuga instead of realizing Doumeki is flustered from having Yashiro’s call snatched from him, Yashiro tells Doumeki he’s fired.
Doumeki immediately wants to return to his master’s side but Kuga demands one more drink. While he leaves for the bathroom, Kageyama and Doumeki talk about their feelings for Yashiro, and Kageyama reveals his deep, platonic feelings for his old friend. Yashiro shows up much to the dismay of the others and bosses Doumeki around like normal, alleviating any fears of abandoning Doumeki.
He then orders Doumeki to accompany him to an adult movie theater, laughing at Doumeki along the way for losing his shoe. Yashiro is relieved to know it’s him that Doumeki is flustered over while Doumeki is lost in thought about how unfair it is Yashiro loves Kageyama so much when Kageyama can’t see Yashiro’s good points the way Doumeki can. Once in the movie theater, Yashiro tells Doumeki he wants to blow him but for the first time, Doumeki asks to refuse. Yashiro is clearly irritated and says he’ll go do it to some other guy and Doumeki grasps his arm with pleading eyes. Yashiro goes off but returns with drinks for the two of them, chastising Doumeki for being disobedient but saying because Doumeki was cute, he’ll forgive him.
Back outside, Yashiro stands alone while Doumeki runs to retrieve Yashiro’s forgotten coat. An inexperienced shooter set on Yashiro shoots him but only wounds him, losing his resolve to Yashrio’s unshakable confidence in the face of death. He gets away as Doumeki returns and calls for an ambulance, shaken to the core while holding an unresponsive Yashiro. Yashiro regains consciousness for a few moments in the ambulance and sees Doumeki shaking uncontrollably next to him. Yashiro recalls being victimized as a child and realizing his unrequited love for Kageyama in high school, annoyed with those being the memories that flash before his eyes before he again loses consciousness.
While the idea of a sex-crazed yakuza member with a new handsome bodyguard might have you expecting crazy fights and gratuitous sex scenes, that’s not what we get. Of course, Twittering Birds Never Fly still has a lot of violence and sex, but it’s often somehow muted, almost like a backdrop, a necessity to the life that is a yakuza member. Rather than trying to get the audience excited, the graphic sex scenes are used to show what others think of Yashiro, his own ability to adapt to changing situations, and the line of what he allows as a sexual partner versus with someone he holds dear.
Despite having been repeatedly sexually assaulted as a young child, Yashiro does not shy away from sex nor does he seem plagued by his past compared to Doumeki whose one witnessed event scarred him deeply. There is a lot of sexual trauma included in the movie with varying ways in which characters react and connect to each other. Yashiro seems to enjoy Doumeki’s impotence, content with just using his mouth on his stoic subordinate. These scenes feel cold and distant, as if daring the audience to see any possibility of romance or excitement like we usually try to find in sex scenes.
The violence too has a removed feeling as the focus is on Yashiro’s thoughtful face as his subordinates or his victims are beaten in the background. He doesn’t seem to care what happens to the people involved as long as they don’t die and Yashiro still gets what he wants out of them. The blood and broken bones are just routine for such a man who even pain and humiliation and bother.
Above the law, rich, and self-indulgent, Yashiro is still incapable of getting everything he wants. Perhaps knowing such great pain and such freedom have made him rather numb to deeper emotions. Doumeki is a great foil to Yashiro with his sensitive nature hidden behind his stoic countenance. Yashiro often speaks to get a rise out of others while Doumeki doesn’t seem to have the capacity for lying or trickery. Opposite to Yashiro’s masochism, Doumeki doesn’t enjoy the verbal teasing or demeaning tasks Yashiro gives him as much as he just hopes to remain by Yashiro’s side. And while Doumeki is instantly, irrevocably attracted to Yashiro from the moment he saw him, it takes Yashiro almost the whole movie to even consider his feelings for Doumeki.
One should not go into this movie hoping for fulfilling masturbation fodder or high-stakes gunfights. The nuances of the characters’ interactions intermixed with the violence and sexual situations are the real shining gem. Graphic but not gratuitous, they give light to the unavoidable downsides of being in the yakuza as not to make our characters unreasonably sympathetic or excuse their failings. The melancholy of having the things you want, doing as you like, and still being powerless in some aspects makes us look inward to what we deem we need to be happy.
Looking at how different characters overcame similar problems forces us to examine those things we decide are holding us back. With all these thoughts to tide us over, we’ll be eagerly awaiting the next movie, Twitter Birds Never Fly ~ The storm breaks ~